Millennium Post

After Mamata's assurance, Bengal docs call off strike

Kolkata/ New Delhi: Junior doctors in West Bengal agreed to call off the week-long strike on Monday after meeting with chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the Bengal state secretariat.

After six days of strike, which saw shut Out-Patient Departments, an end to elective surgeries and diagnostic services and affected thousands of patients, the doctors indicated Sunday that they were ready for talks.

While the doctors said the Chief Minister had "good intentions" and dubbed her a "guardian", the Bengal CM accepted their demands, suggesting a 10-point plan to ensure security at the hospitals.

The meeting, held in presence of the media, came as hospitals around the country suspended all but essential services in solidarity with the Bengal doctors.

The matter has reached the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear a petition about the safety of doctors.

A vacation bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant agreed to list the matter for Tuesday after the counsel appearing for the petitioner, advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, sought an urgent hearing.

"We are proud of our doctors. You may be angry with my government but please go back to work. I will be very happy if you announce the end of your ceasework now," Banerjee told the doctors after the meeting. She also added that the people must be sensitised, "all patients are not bad".

"We came here for discussion because we want a solution... We believe that you have good intentions. If possible, please take appropriate action against the unwanted incidents that have taken place," the doctors said during the meeting on Monday.

Meanwhile, Monday's strike called by the Indian Medical Association hit medical services across the country.

In most places, all non-essential services - which include Out Patient Departments, elective surgeries and diagnostic tests - have been cancelled. A resident doctor at the Trauma Centre of the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi was allegedly abused and threatened by the drunk relatives of a patient around 1 am on Sunday.

The junior doctors held a protest march at the AIIMS campus and are expected to meet Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan and ask for better security. They have also joined the strike, changing their earlier plan of a token protest.

Dr Harsh Vardhan has asked states to draw up laws to safeguard the doctors. But the IMA has called for a comprehensive law in dealing with violence on doctors and healthcare staff. It also wants security measures to be specified. IMA president-elect Rajan Sharma said they asked the Health Minister to bring a central law to protect doctors. "The bill for it will take time, but we need a written assurance it will be brought," Sharma said. See inside

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